Brownie Trouble

brownies-closeupA long time ago, when I was first starting out on this cooking lark, I worked in the kitchen at Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont. This was back when Ben and Jerry themselves were still building their business, and they had a little café at the front of the shop on Cherry Street. We cooks made crêpes and soups and sandwiches, and on the other side of the kitchen the baker made cookies and brownies for the ice cream sundaes.

One day, when the baker called in sick (aka hungover), I offered to make the brownies. The manager Mike, needing brownies urgently, agreed, and I got to work with the massive mixer and large quantity of ingredients. Pounds of butter and chocolate were melted and mixed with copious amounts of sugar, and then I added the eggs and moved on the the dry ingredients. So many pounds of flour, maybe some cocoa powder, and a pound of salt. I did stop for a moment to wonder at that, but this was a huge recipe, and there it was in the baker’s handwriting: 1 lb salt. 

I put it in, mixed everything up, loaded up the huge sheetpans, and popped the trays into the ovens. Then I got started on the next batch. I was halfway through when Mike asked if we had any brownies ready yet. Why yes, the first batch was just coming out of the oven. How well I was doing! I portioned out the first tray and then had a cheeky nibble from some of the edges.

It was like eating a pretzel. A very salty chocolate pretzel. “What did you put in there?” Mike asked me. I listed the ingredients, and I showed him the recipe: “Look, a pound of salt, that’s what it says!”

He ran his fingers across the index card and removed a fleck of old batter. Before my eyes, the 1 lb of salt changed to 1 TB. Needless to say, he took me off brownie duty.

I am pleased to report that over the years, I have improved my brownie skills immensely. And after much experimenting and repeated testing  – selfless, I know – I have come up with a recipe for deep, dark slightly gooey brownies (with just a touch of salt to offset the sweetness). 

Now for a new brownie problem. I made a small batch this weekend, which meant adjusting my catering-sized recipe down from 96 brownies to 25. As I looked through all my baking tins, I realised I don’t have the right sized pan. I have one that was the Author’s granny’s pan, but it is TOO small, so all the batter wouldn’t fit in, and I don’t care what the circumstance is, I hate to throw any food away. And all my other pans are way too big.


So many pans, so little choice!

First of all, I was really surprised . Who doesn’t have a 9×12 baking tin? Well, me, obviously. Second of all, what to do? Well, I guess make one myself.

I greased the closest-sized baking tin and then folded a piece of aluminium foil so that it divided the pan into two sections. Then, to keep the newly constructed “wall” stable, I filled the section I didn’t want to use with lava rocks from the barbecue. (I would have used baking beans, but I always use the beans to cook with, and I have never managed to keep a batch purely for blind baking.) The Author looked on and said ominously, “That’s going to taint the flavour.” Grrr.

I chased him off and finished my construction with parchment paper, then I loaded up the empty side with batter and crossed my fingers.

batter-&-lavaDid the batter ooze out into the other side? No.

Did the lava rocks taint the flavour of the brownies? No.

Did the brownies cook up gooey and rich and decadent and taste so fantastic that three kids keep asking for them, even at breakfast? Yes.

I guess that is a whole other set of brownie problems.

Deep Chocolate Brownies

Yield: 20-25 brownies, depending on how you cut them, but a little goes a long way!

The cocoa powder and the hit of coffee in this recipe add an extra dimension of richness to the brownies. Because there is very little flour in them, you can easily make them gluten free by simply swapping the flour for a GF flour of your choice; you could even use almond meal for a more dense brownie experience! 

Another great thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t require a mixer or any special equipment. Just start with a bowl large enough to easily hold all the ingredients. And make sure you find the right sized pan before you begin!

NOTE: I have updated this recipe to include US measurements as well as metric. Please let me know how this works out for you!

  • 275g (10 oz.) dark chocolate
  • 110g (4 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 325g (11.5 oz. or a little over 1.5 cups) sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 TB instant coffee, mixed with 2 TB boiling water
  • 50g  (2 oz. or 1/2 cup) cocoa powder
  • 125g (4 oz. or a scant cup) flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Line a 9×12″ baking pan with parchment paper and put aside. Heat the oven to 170C (350F).

Melt the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl over boiling water. Leave to cool.

Mix the sugar into the cooled chocolate mixture, then add the eggs, vanilla and coffee. Do not beat, just mix in thoroughly with a wooden spoon or spatula.

Sift together the cocoa, flour and salt, and stir into the chocolate mixture. As soon as everything is incorporated, tip the mix into your prepared tin and pop it into the oven. Cook for 20-30 minutes.The brownies are done when the centre feels the same firmness as the edges. Or you can insert a wooden toothpick into the centre, and if it comes out clean, they are ready. 

Cool the brownies in the pan on a cooling rack. To cut cleanly and not ruin your baking tin, pull the entire tray of brownies out of the pan using the parchment as a “sled” and then cut them with a sharp knife. For really clean edges, you may need to wipe the knife between each cut.

10 thoughts on “Brownie Trouble

  1. flo

    I agree and I’m not your mum.
    Inspired, we decided to make some after school. It was all going great until a) Gracie had a sugar induced meltdown, and b) I got them out of the pan before they’d cooled (I blame the hassling from the madams) and they broke.
    They still taste nice but – learn people learn!
    Thanks Tiara


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